Mud’s two records are great bargain bin finds.
In the early 1970s, mistaking one band called Mud for another was virtually impossible. The English band, Mud, originally formed in 1966, was an unremarkable pop-rock band before transitioning into their more successful period of glam rock. The Albuquerque, NM band, originally called Mudd to help distinguish the two, was a psychedelic, prog rock band that was very literal with their name. The cover of their debut album, Mud on Mudd (1970), featured all six members coated in sticky filth. Their second and last record, Mud (released as Mud), pushed the limits for disgusting album covers, featuring a hairy foot covered in mud. How appealing. Behind that filthy exterior, however, was a prog rock album by deft musicians each proficient with their instruments. While Mudd featured talented musicians who would each go on to continue their careers in the music industry, albeit without garnering much fame along the way, their two records are great bargain bin finds.
Mud’s second album, in particular, has an even balance of original and cover songs. Opening with The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight,” the album’s highlight is lead singer Tommy Gonzales’ sultry voice. Arnold Bodmer and Chuck Klingbeil’s fingers dance across keys, forging an organ-like backing to Steve D’Coda’s gentle acoustic fingerpicking. Following this cover is the uplifting “Better Days are Coming,” a piano-led rock ballad. Playing up the bands soul influences and allowing Gonzales to truly show off all of his skills, the band include a cover of Otis Redding’s trumpet extravaganza “Nobody’s Fault” and James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy.” In each of these songs, Gonzales is far and away the member most benefiting from the arrangements. Other members have brief moments to shine, like Klingbeil’s flute on “I’ll Go Crazy.”
The Mud original “She” is a piano ballad, taking cues from the album’s other featured covers such as “Better Days are Coming” and “Nobody’s Fault,” that takes advantage of Gonzales’ soulful wail, shouting as if to convince himself “She loves me.” This track minimizes the more outlandish psychedelic tendencies of the band in favor of an accessible sound and message that could have led to some success. “Who Owns The Park” is the real outlier here, as it’s a long spoken word diatribe on the oppression of Native Americans and the hypocrisy of American colonizers. The somber conclusion reached is that the land wrestled from its true owners became nothing more than a parking lot, reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.”
“Cruel Ruler” is more indicative of Mud’s original work, though. The track is a psychedelic organ rock instrumental fueled by Bodmer and drummer Randy Castillo. Gonzales even pops in on congas, but the track initially lacks any novelty, becoming somewhat repetitive before opening the floor to Gonzales’ vocal to burst in about halfway into the 10-minute track. This being prog rock, some of these tracks go long, especially when they have to allow for an extended electric guitar breakdown. The fabulously titled closing track, “Smacking Cowboy,” ends things with another epic, this time with D’Coda riffing uninterrupted for a solid eight minutes on his electric guitar.
The appeal of Mud is their blissed-out arrangements. Even though they don’t present much in the way of distinctive takes on prog rock, their talent is undeniable. The band is satisfied to create a predominantly instrumental track and let Gonzales jump in in the last few minutes. Other than “She” and “Pictures,” no original songs here are remotely mainstream. Granted, that may explain why Mud only released two records, but at the very least, they were two uncompromised snapshots of early ‘70s prog rock.